As Yachting World’s 125th anniversary year draws to a close, we bring you half a dozen things you (probably) never knew about life ashore and afloat in 1894...

On 20 April 1894 the debut issue of Yachting World was published. It was a year of firsts, among them:

  • The first sports movie was shown, entitled Boxing in America
  • After much debate, the public could send postcards, by affixing a ha’penny stamp
  • The 100ft Turbinia, the first turbine-powered vessel, failed to reach expected speeds, managing just 19.75 knots
  • The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling and A Woman of No Importance by Oscar Wilde were published
  • The first motor show was held in Paris, and the first car ran on an English highway, a 2hp Benz Velo brought over from Germany
  • The Manchester Ship Canal was opened by Queen Victoria, watched by an astonishing 650,000 people

The Prince of Wales’s Britannia photographed at Harwich Regatta in 1928. Photo: Getty Images

In sailing, the biggest story of the year was the first racing season of HRH The Prince of Wales’s yacht, Britannia. In America, racing happened regularly, but the first major international regatta, the Seawanhaka Cup, happened the following year in 1895 and the One Ton Cup (in the French One Ton class) did not begin until the turn of the century.

Although the numbers of yachts in 1894 were minuscule by comparison with today, individual tonnages were high. The social and financial structure meant that the few biggest racing yachts had dimensions far in excess of today’s supermaxis and were more comparable with modern superyachts.

The America’s Cup yachts in 1894 were around 125ft LOA and soon to become even longer – the 1903 defender Reliance was 143ft 8in.

Before World War I swept the old style of yachting and hierarchy away forever, each sailor knew his place, who was an amateur and who a professional.

The latter were cheap to employ and usually comprised the entire crew of a large racing yacht. Indeed, there were almost always one or two professionals on even the smallest of yachts.

Rightly or wrongly, this hierarchy was respected in the pages of Yachting World, which gave much attention to owners with titles, or at least with ranks, not only in Britain but in Europe, where the old structure was also in place.


Whiskies featured strongly on the cover of The Yachting World of August 1894

Royal patronage was important, and new yacht clubs were swiftly handed out ‘Royal’ prefixes, which gradually became rarer until today, when it is virtually unknown.

With the war, just 20 years later, would come the disappearance of such institutions as the Imperial and Royal Yacht Squadron of Austria, based at Pula on the Adriatic. Things seen as lastingly stable in 1894 were soon about to change fundamentally.

First published in the February 2020 edition of Yachting World.